For the past couple weeks, I have gotten a very nice bunch of beets in my CSA share. Beets are really cool veggies, partly because they're brightly colored (in fact, they'll stain your clothes, countertop, etc. if you're not careful). They're also great because you can eat the whole beet - greens, roots, and even stems, if you like, and they're good for you.
(Betanin, via Wikimedia Commons)
Beets are red (and sometimes yellow) because they contain pigments called "betalains," named after the latin word for beet (beta). These are water soluble red to yellow pigments that occur in plants including beets, Swiss chard, and some cacti, among others. Betanin, one of the betalains derived from beets, is used as an industrial food dye. These dyes are also powerful antioxidants, and may help protect your body from oxidative stress that occurs naturally and causes aging and cancer, but there isn't a lot of scientific evidence to back that up. About 10-15% of the population has a higher level of oxalic acid in their intestines, protecting betalins from being broken down. This allows them to be absorbed by the body and passed as red or pink urine, a condition called Beeturia (it's not harmful, so don't worry if this happens to you). TMI? I think not... it's science!
Anyways, beyond the ubiquitous roasted beet and goat cheese salad (which is admittedly tasty and good for hot weather), my favorite thing to do with beets is make risotto. This dish takes a little while to prepare and it uses the oven more than you might like in summer, but I think it's worth it. It's creamy and delicious and a delicious summertime dinner paired with a glass of dry white wine. Also, bright pink!
Recipe and pic after the fold...
Beet Risotto w/ Greens
1 large bunch of beets with greens (6-8 small beets, 3-4 large ones)
2 tbs. butter plus 2 tbs. olive oil
1 small onion
2 large cloves garlic
2 cups short grain rice (arborio if you have it)
1/2-1 c dry white wine
6c low salt chicken broth (or veg broth or water)
1/2c grated Parmesan cheese (or goat cheese)
- Separate beets from greens. Put beets in foil pouch and roast in 425 degree oven for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, wash, stem, and finely chop greens, set aside. Chop onion and finely dice or grate garlic.
- Remove beets from pouch, cool, and slip off the peel. Chop beets into small chunks. (This can be done a day or two beforehand.)
- Heat oil and butter in large saucepan. Add onion and garlic and cook 1-2 minutes until onion is translucent. Add rice and cook, stirring constantly, 1-2 minutes or until rice looks a little translucent.
- Add wine and cook until liquid is absorbed, stirring. Then, add 1 cup of broth and cook, stirring, until liquid is absorbed. Add two more cups of broth, stirring and waiting until liquid is absorbed between each addition.
- Once half the broth has been cooked into the rice, add chopped beet greens and beets and stir well to mix. Continue adding broth as before until broth is gone or until rice is cooked but not mushy and greens and beets are tender.
- Turn off heat. Add grated Parmesan, and stir to combine. Salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy!